Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Doing it all? Not a chance....

Sometimes I get asked for tips on how to do academia and the mommy thing.  I am sure I'm not a great exemplar for this; I do not consider myself a "mommy" type.  I do not go all googly eyed around babies, but still, I try to love my kids the best I can.  Likewise, I am not the best researcher or thinker or teacher in my field; still, I love my students, and writing, and I love my job.

People sometimes call full time working and full time mommyhood "having it all."  That is surely NOT what I'd call it.  I think it is possible to be a mom and work (my own mother and mother-in-law both work out of the home and did so while raising kids) but I do not think we ought to think of having "both" as some kind of championship cup that has been won.  That makes it seem like a) my life is too perfect; and b) that staying at home is a bad "choice."  I work as a theologian because God has called me to that vocation; I also have a vocation as a mother. What it makes me is very busy.

I'd rather not play into the Mommy Wars here because it's a false dichotomy and it falsely implies choice, which is a pretty tricky concept.  Some people do have more of a choice to do one or the other or both and some don't.  And, I think the Mommy Wars idea tends to be an anti-woman thing anyway: as many scholars have pointed out, why don't men get called out about this?

I think we tend to have some fairly limited choices about what we do and where we go anyway.  Some have more than others, but at any one point, life can throw you something that you didn't "choose" - the hearing loss, the kid with severe disabilities, the job loss.  Some people have the blessing of being able to "choose" but many do not.   Mothers are mothers, and we all have stuff to do.  I think the phrase "bloom where you're planted" is the one I tend to go with in situations like these - because that does not imply choice, but it does imply making the most of where you are.  For those who are more theologically minded, I'll just repeat the scripture I mentioned in a different blog post: by their fruits you will know them. 

So with all these caveats in mind, a list on how to (kind of) survive academia and motherhood both, and this is probably not in order.  Or to put it another way, all of these should be #1:

1.  Have a supportive spouse, if at all possible.  Actually, this is true, regardless of the academic piece of the equation.  Do not have a spouse who either a) thinks that academia is just an "add on" to your "real" life of doing laundry, changing diapers and making dinner; or b) thinks that learning another language is just a bunch of hooey.  "After all, no one speaks coptic anymore, do they?" 

2. Don't worry about the house.  Of all the things in your life that you've got going, a clean house is not the priority.  In fact, take pride in the majestic nature of its messiness, as a testimony to where your priorities are (your kids, your reading, keeping food on the table and the electricity on).  If you need permission to be messy, here it is!

If, like me, you just can't bring yourself to do the first tip, and you NEED to worry about cleanliness, check out a rotating chore list like the one at Motivated Moms.  It states that it is for stay at home moms, but really, I find it very useful as a mom who works out of the house full time.  It lists daily, weekly, and monthly chores incrementally, so that I am never doing an entire bathroom in one day, but just, say, scrubbing the bathtub.  I cross off the ones I know I can't get to (like the time-consuming organization ones - have to wait for summer for that) and do the others.  It takes me about 20-40 minutes each day.  Very doable.

The best, best thing about it is that most of the chores are done during the weekdays, which means that the weekends are free for more family time and more reading time as necessary.

Even so, if a chore doesn't get done, I have had to adopt a "well, that chore will come around again" attitude.  In other words, if I just can't get to vacuum a floor that night because a baby is screaming, so be it.  

3.  Take advantage of the academic calendar and rejoice in it.  On the days you are off and your kids are likewise off from school, spend some time with them. Academia will try to tempt you into thinking that you must work on the "off days" as well because you've got to ___________ (fill in the blank: publish, grade, write a letter of recommendation, publish, grade). 

Build in some time for that if you must, but also spend some time being a mom.

4. Surround yourself with a good community of people.  You and your spouse can't "do it all" by yourselves (which is another problem with the phrase "doing it all).  Marriage itself, to say nothing of kids, can't survive in a vacuum.

Surround yourselves with people who care about you, your kids, your spouse.  These are the people with whom you know you have reciprocal relationships - the kind where you can call someone at 2 am, but where you are fully willing to reciprocate.  Don't neglect the single friends in your lives as members of this all-important community.  Hopefully, some of those people come from academia and understand academic life, too, but that is not as imperative as knowing that there's a community of support.

Tip #4 is especially important in academia, I should add, because the likelihood of finding an academic job anywhere close to family or friends you already have is miniscule.  So building community is important.

5.  In the interest of fostering #4, but also of developing the lives and interests of your kids and yourself: invite people over or out, for dinner, coffee, just to hang out.  Do it as often as you feel up for it.  Academics tend to be introverts as a group, so this may not get done as often as with other "types" but it's important.  This is a chance not to be in the world of academic, to invite people "outside" the university.  But this is also another one of those pluses in academia: there are always likely to be faculty, students or staff in need of an invite.  No shortage of peopl ein academia.

This is just a general list - I'll post more later about specific academic job hunting and job keeping tips as a mom and academic.  And all of you out there, academic or mom or not - have any tips to add regarding parenting and/or working out of the home?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Babywearing, Offending People, and making Academic Arguments: Or, My Take on the Current Political Speech Drama

A dumb, small little fact about me and babies: I love babywearing.  I have slings and wraps in numerous styles, an (organic) Belle Carrier, and the ever-popular Ergo.  I suppose admitting this fact puts me in the dreaded "Bobos in Paradise" category since I am clearly spending way more money on these than a person NEEDS to.

However, what I love about baby carriers is that they a) leave me hands-free so I can do the grocery shopping or laundry folding; b) allow me to write essays while "holding" a baby who doesn't want to be put down (VERY important in academic ;-)) and c) prevent unwanted/unlooked-for baby attention from probably well-meaning people who nevertheless alarm me in the ways they spring out of nowhere itching to touch The Baby.

Okay, enough said about the benefits of babycarriers, because what I really want to talk about is another little, dumb "fact": people who wear babycarriers seem to universally try to ignore each other.  Seriously.  I'll be in the mall wearing my baby and see someone else carrying their baby in a wrap, and inevitably we both turn up our noses.  I've experienced this phenomenon in airports, parking lots, and restaurants as well.  It's so ubiquitous, I'm thinking it's not just me.  I expect non-babywearers to ignore me, for the most part, but the others?  Huh.  We have each other on ignore, similar to those message boards that feature an "ignore" button so that you can avoid the people whose posts always make you upset/embarrassed/livid.

With other parenting things (like, say, a tantruming three year old) parents are generally supportive and sympathetic: a small nod and a knowing smile to say, "Yup, I've been there before and I'm sorry you're going through all this, sis."  But not so with babywearers. It's like we're embarrassed to be babywearers.  Babywearing is still something a minority of people do, and it's something that appears in the news occasionally as an unsafe thing to do (see here for the recall information on certain slings and here for how to safely wear babies).

All of that means it feels a bit like you are putting yourself out there. I think babywearers don't acknowledge each other in part out of not wanting to draw attention to each other, as a way of saying, "This is normal and I don't have to make a big deal about it."  (So isn't that the thing to do with the tantruming three year old too?)

But I also think it has something to do with fear of arguments. A babywearer is, in a way, starting an argument by wearing a baby, because we're saying, "Here's a different way of doing things - even a better way."  But by not acknowledging other babywearers and by generally assuming that most people won't ask you about your sling, because in our society we set a very high premium on letting everyone do their own thing, we don't have to enter into the argument.  We, as a society, hate arguments and would prefer to ignore each other than enter into arguments.

It's something I see with my students all the time, in the classroom, in their writing, and even in incredibly provocative lectures given by famous people.  Students are reluctant to make arguments, perhaps out of fear of being wrong or of offending someone so they don't say anything at all, whether they agree or disagree with the people who ARE taking a stand.

I find that I always have to give a lecture at the beginning of the semester making my own case that it is better to take a strong stand than to always stand in the background and let others do the thinking for you.  Regarding offending people, I always remind them that this is what being polite is about: listening to other peoples' provocative, interesting arguments (not interrupting, not barging through, NOT ignoring).  It is also about being willing to be wrong, being willing to forgive others' foibles when necessary, and being willing to change one's mind.  We have a thing against arguments, almost seeing them as impolite, in part because our "role models" (I have politicians on both sides of the aisle in mind here) are not really good role models but instead prey on each other and drag each other through the mud, deliberately misinterpreting meanings.

Being willing to be wrong, to forgive and to change one's mind are in quite short supply in our society and I'm convinced it's because we don't argue well and we don't want to engage each other, even when we see people doing things (like babywearing) that may seem a bit strange and odd.  We'd rather whisper out of earshot to known friends: "Did you SEE that weird thing that person was doing?" rather than have an honest but scary conversation that might - gasp- turn into an argument.  It IS possible to have a civil, eye opening argument. It's one of the things I hope I'm helping my students do better.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How to "leave" gracefully? Or, maternity leave - how DO women do it?

I continue to be somewhat amazed by how blurry the idea of "leave" is - I don't know that I'm really "leaving" except that I don't have official teaching classes this semester.  I know that people say the key to leaving is just to refuse to participate - easier said than done.  Besides which, maternity leave is a bit different.  I'm having a good time so far hanging out with the baby but I do have to go back fairly soon so it's helpful to keep up with things.  Consider what I've got going during my "leave":

  • Continued issues with grades from last semester.  Hope to have this one done this week if possible!Can't just drop the students who protest grades from a previous semester; can't hand this off to someone else either.
  • Directed reading with master's student (meets once a week online during leave, in office once I'm back).  This is from a student who originally was a master's thesis advisee, then decided to do the work in a directed reading instead.  I agreed to be her thesis advisor; don't feel like/don't want to drop the directed reading now...
  • Honors thesis student advising - review and grade thesis writing; agreed to this 1.5 years ago and need to honor that...
  • Masters' thesis students - I have two current students - meet and revise writing as needed; agreed to do this at least a year ago; need to honor that...
  • Possibly 2 more letters of recommendation, depending on whether said students decide to apply or not
  • Presentation at the Symposium on The Powers (a la the books by Walter Wink; I'll be writing about him more in the coming days) - agreed to do this a while ago; could probably miss if I HAD to.
  • 6 more chapters to write on The Book - 4 of which are partially written in some form, phew
  • Proposal for a conference paper on children and moral formation - could sidestep this one if necessary, though that would "put me back" in terms of having research to do next year. 
    • NB: Actually this relates to one of the key problems pre tenured academic women find they have if they take maternity leave.  Their research goes way down, and that's because a lot of academic conferences/publications/etc. require the foresight of a year or two of advance planning.  That's why insitutions with good policies stop the tenure clock, to allow women to jump back in to things after they've returned and "make up" some of the "lost" time.  (I'm a bit loathe to call spending time healing from pregnancy and labor, and raising a newborn "lost" though)
  • Continued work on a collective theology blog in progress for the past year.


  • Department chair seach, involving attending the public and departmental presentations.  I COULD argue to sidestep this one, actually, but that's probably not a good idea all in all.
  • Assistant professor search - same as above, but this one I may actually sidestep; depends how baby is.
  • University wide committee I'm on - need to continue to participate in once-a-month meetings even through maternity leave because of the topic and its relationship to other things I do at the uni.

I do actually have a point to saying all this beyond a kind of "hey look at all the stuff I do" ego statement.  Several studies have suggested that untenured women with children have a more difficult time getting tenure (the opposite is true for men, apparently!)  This really interesting 2010 study suggests some of the same thing I've experienced - the never ending nature of the job affects the way one understands family once children are in the picture.  While academia has the BIG advantage of being flexible, its very flexibility is also perceived as a liability for women with children.  Flexibility means one has a bit more control over time during a typical 9 to 5 day; it also means that there are often required events that happen outside a typical day.

But unlike the article I've linked, I think that non-acadmics face some of the same issues that academics do.    What say you, other women out there? How do you manage being on "leave" while also knowing you'll be back in a pretty short amount of time?  How do you manage the mommy track issues faced by women who have careers and children?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How to Write Heavy Blog Posts

I haven't updated in a few days because I've been thinking about a pretty heavy topic that is in the news these days: state legislatures wanting to curtail higher education.  Which in turn leads to curtailing of humanities, which in turn leads to less creative, less flexible, even dare I say, less ethical minds.  A mind trained in humanities as well as engineering is a mind willing to take some risks and be wrong some times.  A mind trained under our "Teach to the Test" policies that we have in secondary education, and which are now moving to higher education in the form of "assessment" is able to see the extent of the law but not able to think about possibilities.

(I've been thinking about all this while on maternity leave, by the way, because I know that my maternity leave is great compared to most women's in America.  And I think to myself, why should that be the case?  Most women, most families, most children should have what I have.  Instead of academics having to be defensive toward state legislatures, I think the opposite should be happening. But instead we seem to be collectively trying to take academia down the road we've taken business in the last two decades and make them into star production factories but not places where work OR quality of life are valued highly.  If we thought work mattered, we'd take pride in it, rather than considering it a drudgery.  Likewise, if we really thought families and friends mattered, we'd value leaves that help us be better families and friends.  I'm often amazed when I'm talking to people who did factory work or construction work in the 50s, 60s and 70s.  They had pride in that work and others saw it as important too.  My grandfather was a plumber and also a very influential man in his community.  I don't think he'd have the same kind of respect today.  He also worked hard - but he had more time off then that Americans do now.  Not sure the production push of the 1980s was really a benefit...)

In all the writing about why America seems to be a falling star in politics and economics,  let us consider that one of the reasons might be the moral formation of our students, or lack thereof.  Because teaching to the test is moral formation whether we recognize it as such or not - but I'm not sure it's morally forming the kinds of attitudes we want to see in our students.   I think it DID, on the other hand, bear some of the responsibility for forming a business culture that just barely stayed to the right side of the law and saw little or no purpose in a morality that might be beyond law (And I would add, this is a culture my business ethics students all wanted to be part of and so made themselves conform to).

That kind of culture has not really failed, despite what pundits say.  I think we see it all around us, in both political and economic sectors.  It continues to be a problem, and we educators continue to form students in it.  Until we can think of education, and humanities, in ways that go beyond showing legislators the "bottom line" and "evidence (generally via tests)" that students learn something in my classes I think it won't get better.

My reasoning is based on something Jesus said: "By their fruits you will know them."  My students' fruit lately has been far less creative - and less willing to be wrong for once - than before.  My business ethics students speak of wanting to make money as fast as possible so that they can get to live what they think is quality of life - buying all the latest tech gadgets and playing with them.  So rather than complain that "America" seems to be losing influence, let us think in terms of the fruit we see in our students and younger business colleagues.

Anyway.  I've been working on a post (not this one) these past few days about what can be learned from academia when it comes to work and state legislatures, but it's made me rather "rant-y" and incoherent kind of like what you see above.  Some day when I like those drafts, maybe I'll post them.  For now I'm just submitting this humble post.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Funny, Sad Parking People Story

Some of my readers will have heard this story in an oral storytelling form, but I figure it's good (bad?) enough to share in writing too.  I mentioned in my first post that my institution is family-friendly in most cases.  This is one of those cases where it isn't all that.

So imagine - a 29-week pregnant woman (a full-term pregnancy begins at 37 weeks; pregnancy is generally considered to last about 40 weeks - at least, that's how the due date is calculated).  This woman's doctor has just told her she needs to be doing "modified bed rest" because of pregnancy complications.  She can go to work, but she cannot do pretty much anything else.  No prenatal yoga (despite how great it makes her joints feel, and especially that place up in her rib cage where the baby is kicking too much); no household chores (well, that was nice, actually); no setting up things for the baby :-( ; no shopping trips; no picking up her 3 year old daughter.  Et cetera.

So this woman, a fairly intelligent woman, thinks to herself: "Hmmm, my approved parking lot at my university is about a quarter mile and up three large flights of stairs from my office.  Clearly, I cannot continue to park there.  There is a much, much closer lot, though - maybe I could get temporary approval for that lot."

So she calls the Parking Office and asks.  They say, "Sure - you just need a doctor's note.  You can even have the doctor fax it to us.  Now, the caveat is that you can only get a temporary pass for a month.  If you want it for longer, you'll have to go to the state Motor Vehicle Division and request a handicapped parking pass."  The woman thinks: a) the doctor's note is reasonable; b) the month-long limit is slightly ridiculous especially when it is only six more weeks till the end of the semester, it is clear that I am pregnant (notice the basketball sized bulge), I am only requesting a temporary pass, and I will cease to be pregnant at some point very soon in the future, but (hopefully) not in the next four weeks.  Besides which, she thinks, going to the DMV, standing in line there, is likely NOT to be on the list of approved things that the doctor wants her to do.

Nonetheless, the woman has the doctor's office fax the note.  Four weeks is better than none and, perhaps there will be a way to negotiate a couple extra weeks just to the end of the semester.

Later that day, she goes to the parking office to get the temporary pass.  Underling 1 is cheerful and tries to be helpful, but when he inputs her name into the computer, his face falls.  Underling 1: "The computer says you don't have a pass here."  Pregnant Woman: "Oh, that's because it's in my husband's name.  We only have one car and we share it all the time."  Underling 1: "Well, if the pass is not in your name, you can only get a 2 week temporary pass.  Hang on though, let me check with my supervisor."  Underling 1 returns: "Yes, I'm sorry, Ma'am, but we can only give you a 2 week temporary pass if the original pass is not in your name."  Pregnant Woman (now dangerously close to tears as it has been a rather trying day, starting with the doctor's announcement of needing bed rest):  "But we only have one car.  You people are ridiculous."  Pregnant woman walks, no storms, out of the office.  (NB: This is my one regret in the whole story - the poor underling had no control over any of this; wish I hadn't shouted at him.)

The next day...

Pregnant Woman shares the whole story with Helpful Office Administrator 1, who has been here a long time and knows a few people.  HOA 1 calls the head of the parking division and says, "Okay, you should be all fixed up now - just phone this number and they'll work things out."  Pregnant Woman telephones.  Parking Office Head says, "Okay, now WHY exactly would you need a temporary pass in this cushy close parking lot?"  Pregnant Woman (taken aback by tone): "Well, because my husband and I both drive our one car to campus.  If I need to use the car to, say, go to an appointment, then it is better for me not to have to walk a quarter mile and up some stairs to get to the car."  Parking Office Head: "But our computer shows here that your husband teaches Monday, Wednesday and Friday; you only teach Tuesday and Thursday.  Can't you just have him drop you off?"  Pregnant Woman: "Not really - because again, I might need the car.  And, I do work here full time even if I only teach twice a week.  I come to the office everyday."  Parking Office Head: "Okay, we'll give you a temporary pass, but only on Tuesdays and Thursdays when you teach."  Pregnant Woman: "But I need it especially on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, because I drop off Philosophy PhD Husband and then drive to drop off our daughter at day care.  He teaches at 8 am and the day care doesn't open till 7:30, so he can't drop her, drop me and park and get to his class on time in that time frame."  Parking Office Head: "Okay, we'll do a Monday/Wednesday/Friday only pass."  Pregnant Woman sighs and accepts this deal, grudgingly.

Later that day....

Pregnant Woman mentions this story to a few colleagues, including her department chair person.  She is laughing about it, because it is SO ridiculous, but is also rather angry.  But Department Chair is even more upset.  Over the course of the rest of the day, Department Chair gets four other administrators on board, all of whom are livid about the situation and all of whom try to get the Parking People to change their minds.

Which leads Pregnant Woman to ponder: "How many administrators does it take to screw in a lightbulb for the Parking People?"  Will they have to take it all the way to the President's Office?

Apparently, no.  Parking Office accedes and says that there can be a temporary pass for a month, for every single day of the week.  Yippee.  Philosophy PhD Husband goes to the Parking Office to get the hard-won pass, where....  Underling 2 grills him about WHY Pregnant Woman needs this pass.  "But you carpool, right? You can just drop her off."  Philosophy PhD Husband returns home, empty-handed.

The next day...

Pregnant Woman speaks again with the administrators.  By mid-morning, HR Administrator has (thankfully) cleared everything up, INCLUDING the four week problem.  "Just tell them how long you need the pass for," she says.  And Pregnant Woman does.  And almost immediately, she starts feeling a bit less winded, a bit less concerned about the welfare of the unborn baby.

NB:  Friends at other institutions say that, despite the best intentions and whatever the "Mission" of their school might say, the Parking Office has given them similar grief.  From a Parking Office POV, especially on campuses with limited parking, I can see the need to be firm about spaces.  But it is also clear to me that Practical Wisdom needs to be taught a bit more often in training courses, et cetera.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Grading like parenting???

I suppose it goes without saying that leaves never really begin or end in quite so neat a way as the human resources people would like to imagine: "Dear Dr. Theology Mom:  Your leave has been approved from January 3rd to March 15th.  After that time, you will be returning to modified duties as follows...."

Yeah, well.  Leaving is a bit hard to do, especially when grades were due only 15 days ago and the change-of-grade deadline for last semester rapidly approaches.  Unlike Philosophy PhD Husband, I seem to get hit hard with grade protests and a "grades hard" comment or two generally show up on my evaluations each semester.  I'm not sure how that can be, since I wouldn't say my grading average is all that different from the school's as a whole - around a B-. 

Some of my colleagues think it must be the courses I teach.  The first few semesters I was here, I taught a course in marriage and family, which has/had a reputation of being a "gut" class where everyone gets an A; then last semester I taught a medical ethics course where everyone was a pre-med major who "needed" the A to get into medical school.  They were an exceptionally bright bunch, which explains why a  large majority earned A-s.  Still, full As, to me, denote a really high level of excellence.  I don't feel like I can give an A just because someone is going to medical school.  (And, does an A- in a religion class REALLY hurt their chances to get into med school? Someone come along and correct me on that...)

A friend of mine quips, "You don't need to pay me to teach, but you can't pay me enough to grade."  That's a sentiment that nearly every academic I know shares.

I wonder why: people who are not, in the least, procrastinators when it comes to writing book reviews procrastinate when it comes to grades (and that's saying quite a lot since book reviews are one of the things people put off all the time); colleagues start groaning and grumbling the moment the grading for a semester starts (around the third week) and then it never lets up; people trade jokes about end-of-semester grading (just throw the pile of papers off a stairwell and grade according to where they land...), much like undertakers and doctors have a bit of morgue humor going, out of necessity.

I used to think maybe it was because grading involved making judgements, and maybe people don't like judging.  But THAT can't be quite right, at least in the world of academia.  We make judgements all the time - we learned how to make strong reactionary judgements in graduate school ("Well, that author has everything totally wrong."  And just as a caveat, I think most of us have to learn to be less judgemental the further from grad school we get - especially just around the time a first book review of a book we ourselves wrote comes out, and we feel all the injustices of harsh words...)

My current theory is that grading, especially in the humanities where paper writing isn't nicely quantifiable with multiple choice answers and math problems, is like parenting and that's why we don't like it.  Grading involves not only making judgements, but trying to help people learn to do better.  This is a task made quite difficult by them, at an age when they believe they are perfect and have the most amazing thoughts that even their professors have NEVER ever thought of.  It involves telling them when they've done something wrong, like plagiarize.  It involves disappointing people who put in a lot of work but who nevertheless do not deserve an A on the output - perhaps a bit like my 3 year old who cajoles me for candy because she tried really hard to eat 2 pieces of broccoli on her plate.

But whereas the parenting I do with my kids has many rewards and I see SOME progress eventually because of the longevity of parenting (my 3 year old is finally, finally telling us when she has to go potty...), those rewards are VERY very far and few between with college students.  We only see them a few hours a week and usually only for a semester; most of them don't come visit during office hours; we read final drafts of papers that make it clear they haven't even looked at the comments made on the rough draft.  We try to tell them that good writing reflects good thinking, when they want to believe that if they've done the standard 5-paragraph essay it should be an A because all the elements are there. And in the end, all we have to show for the hard work of grading is the students knocking at the door demanding to know why they have __________ grade.

In other words - grading is a process of moral formation of our students - and that takes a lot more time than just the semester in which we have them.  The hope, I guess, is that the university community as a whole is able to foster this kind of awareness over four or five years.  One professor may not hit  point home, but five or seven would.

Anyway, this just goes to show why grading questions leak over to my leave.  Grading takes time.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ah.... maternity leave

Daughter at (new) preschool.

Husband at office.

Relatives returned home.

Today is my first real day of maternity leave, just me and the baby, at home by ourselves.  I've started this blog in honor of the occasion, partly because I am a little bit unsure what I am going to DO with myself for the next couple months.

I'm really grateful that I am at an institution that sees itself as family-friendly, and has policies that accordingly match (for the  most part - perhaps I'll blog about that one day).  I think that babies do best with a lot of concentrated time with their parents early on, and I am breastfeeding and doing lots of attachment parenting type things that require time. I am among those who wish the US had maternity leave policies that are longer than 6 weeks (and even then only for companies with more than 50 employees, blah blah blah).  For all our talk about wanting to build a family-friendly nation, we have really unfriendly child and family policies. 

On the other hand, what's a full-time academic used to days of teaching, writing and committee work to do all day with - well - a non-college aged, non-talking, mostly-pooping 3 week old?  I haven't been trained for this!

Careful observers will, of course, note that I have another daughter, now in preschool, and may well ask what's different this time around?  Truthfully, it's the fact that I HAVE done this before that scares me.  I remember having days of feeling quite empty and purposeless last time around, too.  One friend of mine tried to get me on the Doman (teach your baby to read at 6 months!) method of working with babies, on the faulty assumption that this would somehow occupy my time with my first.  But making and reading handmade red letter cards with large words on them were not going to fill up the vacuum that had previously been filled by interesting colleagues, chats in the lounge, and students who ask off-the-wall questions.

Being a stay at home mom, even temporarily, is really, really tough I found.  So I'm a little scared this time around, but still think it's important to be here.

So, I have two months of maternity leave (that's all the short term disability I have accrued at my current institution).  When I "go back" in March I'll be doing modified duties so that I can get paid at my current level (i.e. no teaching, because one can't really begin teaching in mid-semester, but a lot of research and service).  I'll also be bringing my baby when I go back in March because the modified duties are supposed to be such that I won't need to be at the office much.  Heh heh.  We'll see how that goes, then.

Until then, you may well wonder whether I REALLY am on maternity leave, because I have the following things I need to work on:
1. Edited paper I presented at a conference last March, due mid to late January for the journal publishing the proceedings of the conference.
2. Mini regional conference in mid February, where I am an invited lecturer.  Guess how much I have actually written of that paper?
3. The Book.  7 chapters due by October 1st of this year (eek).  Guess how much of the book I have actually written?  (Fear for me a little less on this one than on #2 - I have actually written a couple of chapters...)

I guess let's jump into things, and see how far I can get nursing while typing one-handed ;-)